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July 19, 2005

Prospectus Hit List

Week of July 17

by Jay Jaffe

Rk Team
Overall W-L
Week W-L
Trend
Comment

1


Cardinals
59-32
3-0
Flat
Chris Carpenter spins his third shutout in six starts (he went 8.2 scoreless in another one) beating the only NL pitcher he trails in VORP (48.4). Carpenter has a 0.69 ERA over his last 65.2 innings; guess he deserved that All-Star start after all. On the down side, Reggie Sanders has a hairline fracture of his fibula from colliding with Jim Edmonds and will miss four to six weeks, reminding us that the Cards are the most dangerous team in the league, even to themselves.

2


White Sox
61-29
4-0
Flat
Kicked sand in the Indians' faces, sweeping them in four straight, including two shutouts. In addition to having three of the league's top six pitchers in VORP, relievers Dustin Hermanson and Cliff Politte are in the AL's top six in Reliever Expected Wins Added. Hermanson ranks third at 2.959, while Politte is sixth at 2.384. Politte also leads the AL in Adjusted Runs Prevented at 23.9.

3


Angels
55-37
3-1
Flat
They're healthier now that Steve Finley and Orlando Cabrera have returned, but neither was exactly overachieving with the bat. Finley's hitting a mere .226/.284/.405 for a 1.6 VORP, while Cabrera's batting just .251/.301/.363 for a 7.5 VORP. The latter might be better off going under the knife to remove the bone chips from his elbow while Maicer Izturis (.288/.333/.433, 6.9 VORP) handles the shortstop duties.

4


Red Sox
50-41
1-3
Flat
The Curt Schilling-As-Closer experiment got off to a rocky start, with his favorite target delivering the big blow, and except for a 17-1 drubbing, the rest of the weekend series against the Yanks didn't go so well either. A 6-11 slide has allowed their pinstriped foes to close within a half-game of the AL East lead. Bright spot: with a double in the eighth on Sunday, Johnny Damon extended his hitting streak to 29 games, a span over which he's hitting .348/.386/.530; he leads all AL CFs in VORP (35.7).

5


Braves
52-41
2-2
Flat
Chipper Again: the Braves are getting healthier in a hurry, aiding both their rotation and their offense. Tim Hudson needed only 62 pitches to toss six scoreless frames at the Mets in his return from the DL, although Mike Hampton was pounded for five runs over two innings in his return. Chipper Jones (.282/.411/.513 and 17.5 VORP, fourth-best on the team) will be activated this week after missing five weeks with a partially torn ligament in his foot. With hot-hitting rookie Wilson Betemit's performance (.299/.357/.488 and 12.0 VORP) in Jones' absence, the team may shift him to shortstop and deal pending free agent Rafael Furcal.

6


Orioles
49-42
2-2
Up
Congratulations to Rafael Palmeiro for joining the 3,000 hit/500 homer club, one so exclusive that it includes only Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, and Eddie Murray. Feh to Skip Clueless, who wouldn't know a Hall of Famer if one slapped him across the face with a fish while dancing. Per the Jaffe WARP Score system, Palmeiro's 137.9 WARP3/46.8 PEAK/92.3 JAWS would require a Blyleven-level disconnection with reality to keep him out. Alas, that's happened before....

7


Yankees
49-41
3-1
Up
Despite a decimated rotation--the latest casualty being rookie surprise Chien-Ming Wang (torn rotator cuff)--the Yanks stole three out of four from the Red Sox in Fenway. Alex Rodriguez shut closer Curt Schilling and the Boston boo birds up with three homers, including a ninth-inning game-winner, while Gary Sheffield went 8-for-16 while slugging 1.125. Al Leiter, acquired from the Marlins the day before, befuddled the Sox for his first Yankee win in 16 years.

8


Rangers
47-43
1-3
Down
After being nearly no-hit by the A's not once but twice, and losing three out of four to their AL West rivals, the Rangers have gone just 17-23 over the past six weeks. Off the field, Kenny Rogers continues to demonstrate some rare form of camera-induced psychosis, engaging in a verbal war with yet another cameraman as he turned himself in to the police. Rogers could be looking at jail time for a Class-A misdemeanor charge of assault as well as his 20-game suspension, which is still under appeal. Lock him up and throw away the key, boys.

9


Indians
47-45
0-4
Down
Unhappy Returns: the Indians were shut out twice and managed just six runs--three in one garbage-time ninth--as they were swept by the White Sox. Over the four games, they hit a meager .189/.275/.236 without a single homer. Travis Hafner's concussion after being hit in the mouth by a Mark Buehrle pitch didn't help matters at all. Along with Hafner, they'll welcome back Rafael Betancourt, who was suspended for 10 days after testing positive for a banned substance, the sixth major-leaguer to do so this year.

10


Twins
49-41
1-3
Flat
Power Outage: All-Star break and all, the Twins went a whole week between home runs, a span of 173 plate appearances. Bret Boone's arrival and Michael Cuddyer's return finally allows the infielder-challenged Twins to demote Luis Rivas. Given his career EqA of .246 and fielding Rate2 of 95, exactly what Rivas has been doing on their roster for five years is an open question.

11


Athletics
47-44
3-1
Flat
Rich Harden and Barry Zito carried no-hitters into the eighth ininng on conseuctive nights against the Rangers; the duo have combined for a 1.69 ERA in 42.2 innings this month. Meantwhile, Billy Beane pulls the trigger on deals to acquire underachieving Joe Kennedy (7.04 ERA, -22.2 VORP, second-worst in the majors) and overachieving Jay Witasick (2.52 ERA, 11.5 VORP, second-best on the entire staff) from Rockies and Jay Payton (.249 EqA, 2.8 VORP) from Red Sox, sending away Eric Byrnes (.268 EqA, 9.7 VORP) and Chad Bradford (disabled all season after back surgery).

12


Cubs
46-45
3-1
Up
Held the Pirates to just seven runs over four games, helping the Cubs earn this week's Platinum Pole Vault award by rising six spots in the rankings. With Mark Prior and Kerry Wood now back from the DL, all eyes are on Nomar Garciaparra, who's returned to baseball activities. According to Will Carroll's study, the Cubs are sixth in the majors in the amount of money they've paid out to disabled players (around $12 million).

13


Blue Jays
45-47
1-3
Down
Canada: so vast, so rugged, so diverse, with four times as many indigenous subspecies of caribou as they have major league teams. If each of the country's 2.4 million caribou came to a Jays game, they would more than double the season's projected attendance. Alas, caribou care little for baseball and even less for the Blue Jays, at least since Ernie Whitt retired. As does this deadline-strapped writer at this hour, so an Authorial Indifference award to the Jays this week. Hints for a more analytical take next week: streaking--winning, losing, or running bare-assed naked across the Skydome turf.

14


Mets
46-46
2-2
Up
Stinky Minky and the Dinkies: one big reason why the Mets can't break free of .500--besides Jose Reyes as a leadoff hitter and Kazuo Matsui in the everyday lineup and Kazuhisa Ishii in the rotation and Carlos Beltran daydreaming about puffy clouds--is the production of the team's first basemen, chiefly Doug Mientkiewicz (1.0 VORP). Thus far they're hitting a pathetic .214/.294/.344, and Willie Randolph resorted to playing utilitymen Chris Woodward and Marlon Anderson in Minky's absence, with predictably unproductive results. In desperation the team has Victor Diaz (.242/.369/.435 afer a very hot start) learning first base in Triple-A.

15


Padres
50-43
2-2
Down
Damian Jackson's play has the Padres considering shifting Mark Loretta to third after he finishes his rehab assignment. Jackson is hitting .290/.360/.409 and has flashed the leather well, putting up a 110 fielding Rate2. The organization appears to be running out of patience with current third baseman Sean Burroughs; though he's been fielding his position equally well, is hitting with as much power as an asthmatic hamster (.257/.331/.304). Between Loretta, Jackson, Geoff Blum or even Xavier Nady (a college third baseman who's played three games there this year), somebody ought to be able to put Burroughs out of the Pads' misery.

16


Phillies
48-45
3-1
Up
America, Meet Bobby Abreu: despite whispers of a juiced ball, the Home Run Derby provided as good a platform as any to showcase the talents of the criminally unheralded Phillie right fielder. The 31-year-old sports a career .305/.413/.517 line and currently ranks fourth in the NL in VORP (41.9). Festivities aside, the Phils pounded the Marlins to take over third place in the NL East. Vicente Padilla, who was in danger of losing his spot in the rotation, has put up 13 straight scoreless innings over his last two starts to lower his ERA to 5.61. Consider it an audition for his next employer.

17


Tigers
44-46
2-2
Down
A partial tear in the flexor mass of his right forearm is threatening closer Troy Percival's career, but that didn't stop replacement Kyle Farnsworth from breaking out the WWF-brand Whoop-Ass on Jeremy Affeldt during a bench-clearing brawl. Farnsworth is seventh in the AL in Adjusted Runs Prevented (14.7) and 13th in the league in Reliever Expected Wins Added (1.884).

18


Nationals
53-39
1-3
Down
Fears about the glacial speed with which Nick Johnson's heel may heal prompted Jim Bowden to acquire Preston Wilson from the Rockies despite Wilson's underwhelming performance away from Coors (.224/.280/.411)--but then who is Bowden to pay attention to stuff like that? Ask Cristian Guzman (.193/.231/.280), the man with the lowest VORP of any big league hitter (-15.9) and a past recipient of Bowden's indiscriminate largesse. Meanwhile, a Capitol welcome to ex-Yank Mike Stanton for balking home the winning run in his first appearance. Walk-off to balk-off in consecutive appearances, eeesh.

19


Brewers
45-47
3-1
Up
Critics of the Brewers' acquisition of Tomo Ohka pointed to his 17/27 K/BB ratio as a National. Since the trade he's at 24/3. His ERA has risen, however, as the .212 batting average on balls in play he enjoyed in DC has regressed to .295. And now for something completely different: the Brewers are the healthiest team in the league in terms of days lost to the DL (less than 100), and third-best in terms of dollars lost to the DL (around $1 million). Of course, with the fourth-lowest payroll (around $40 million), the latter isn't that hard to do.

20


Marlins
45-45
1-3
Down
Sank to .500 by dropping six out of seven, yielding an astonishing 64 runs while scoring 35, a performance worthy of the Golden Anvil award. Shipped Al Leiter (6.64 ERA, -9.9 VORP) to the Yankees for, well, nothing except the right to stop doing his laundry and the chance to save themselves $400,000. Next out the door might be the much more useful A.J. Burnett (3.64 ERA, 18.9 VORP, 8.65 K/9) heavily rumored to be headed to the Orioles along with Juan Encarnacion (18.0 VORP) or the flatlining Mike Lowell (-4.8 VORP). Manager Jack McKeon is on the hot seat as well.

21


Astros
44-46
0-3
Down
So much for that 16-4 stretch; the Astros were swept by the Cardinals to start an 11-game road trip. While Chris Carpenter bested Roger Clemens on Sunday, the Rocket had an even more momentous task ahead of him: delivering his 18-year-old son, Koby, to the team's rookie-league club in Greenville, TN. A third baseman, the younger Clemens was drafted by the Astros in the eighth round, and his signing with the organization has been taken as yet another clue that his power-pitching pop isn't going anywhere come the trading deadline.

22


Mariners
41-50
2-2
Flat
Will Carroll's data shows that the Mariners have lost more days to the DL (nearly 900) than any other team, but at just about $5 million paid to those players, they're in the middle of the pack in terms of DL dollars. Still, it's tough to see how a healthy Bobby Madritsch, Rafael Soriano, Bucky Jacobsen or Dan Wilson (to cherrypick some examples) would have a bigger impact on this team than a fully healthy and productive Adrian Beltre (.262/.304/.402), who's been troubled by hamstring problems.

23


Dodgers
41-51
1-3
Flat
Scored only nine runs in dropping three out of four to the Giants, taking their latest slide to 1-7. The good news is that Milton Bradley has begun his rehab assignment; while he's been on the DL with a torn finger ligament, the Dodgers have gone 15-28 while scoring just 3.51 runs per game. One player thriving is Jeff Weaver, who's yielded just a 2.56 ERA over ten starts (70.1 innings).

24


Diamondbacks
45-49
2-2
Up
Rest, not surgery is the only cure for the strained tendon in Troy Glaus' knee, and the cortisone injections can only do so much. Glaus is hitting .258/.355/.512 with 20 homers and is second on the team in VORP (24.2). Oddly enough, the team's top three VORPers (Chad Tracy and Shawn Green are the other two) all have OBPs of .355.

25


Giants
40-51
3-1
Up
The first franchise to 10,000 wins can go stuff themselves revel in doing it against their archrivals, whom they now trail by a mere half-game in the standings. Meanwhile Barry Bonds might not return this season, but he'll likely be spared from testifying in open court about steroids.

26


Pirates
40-51
1-3
Down
Can't Buy a Break: five games after returning from a finger surgery that sidelined him for two months, Craig Wilson is hit on the hand by soft-tossing Greg Maddux, causing a fracture that will sideline Wilson for another six weeks. In happier news, rookie southpaw Zach Duke (a BP Top Prospect Honorable Mention) has put together a 16.1-inning scoreless streak over his first three starts, striking out 21 over his first 22 innings.

27


Reds
38-53
3-0
Flat
Official Hit List whipping boy Eric Milton has put together a reasonably good four-start stretch, allowing just 11 runs and two homers over his past 25 innings to bring his ERA below 7.00. With 29 homers allowed, he'll have to continue keeping the gophers under control to avoid challenging Bert Blyleven's single-season record of 50. He's on pace for 51.6, though it's unlikely even an organization as masochistic as the Reds would send him out there with nothing at stake in late September.

28


Royals
32-59
2-2
Up
The scariest sight in that bench-clearing brawl wasn't the Runelvys Hernandez pitch that hit Carlos Guillen in the head, it was blonde-haired Jose Lima acting as peacemaker. Then again, when you're sporting the worst VORP of any pitcher in the majors, who cares what you look like?

29


Rockies
31-59
0-3
Down
Did reasonably well in their two trades, acquiring a much better all-around center fielder in Eric Byrnes (.269 EqA and 4 FRAA for a 3.0 WARP) than they gave up in Preston Wilson (.261 EqA and -11 FRAA for a 1.3 WARP), ridding themselves of the disastrously disappointing Joe Kennedy, and harvesting value for Jay Witasick. The sleeper might be Zach Day, who for all of his struggles (6.75 ERA and seven weeks on the DL) and shortcomings (a career K/9 of 4.58, a K/BB rate of 1.13) is a guy who won't give up many homers in Coors thanks to an extreme 2.33 G/F ratio.

30


Devil Rays
31-62
3-1
Flat
Can't Take It No Mo': it's not often a team DFAs a pitcher tied for the team lead in wins, but then again, wins are a flawed stat. The Rays cut ties with Hideo Nomo, whose VORP was second-worst in the AL (-16.9). Nomo posted an acceptable 3.91 ERA in 48.1 innings at Tropicana Field, but yielded an eye-popping 10.32 ERA in 52.1 innings on the road. As brutal as he could be at his worst, Nomo has always been a treat to watch at his best, so if this is the end of the line, then a tip of the cap from this author.

The Prospectus Hit List rankings are derived from Won-Loss records and several measurements pertaining to run differentials, both actual and adjusted, from Baseball Prospectus Adjusted Standings through the close of play on every Sunday.

Jay Jaffe is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Jay's other articles. You can contact Jay by clicking here

Related Content:  The Streak,  A's,  The Who,  Preston Wilson,  Vorp,  Cameraman,  10 Runs To A Win

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